Cinci Flying Pig Half Marathon {Race Review from a Cleveland Native}

Miscellaneous

Best. Race. Ever.

That’s how I would describe the 2015 Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon.
From an awesome expo, to an awesome swag bag, to an awesome starting line, to an awesome course – this race was incredible!

flying-pig-logoWe spent the night in downtown Cinci on Saturday and I woke up on Sunday at 5AM for a 6:30AM start time (the earliest I’ve ever seen, usually it’s 7AM.) I was pretty tired from spending the day and most of the night before in Downtown Louisville for the derby, but a light breakfast and an energy gel did me well.

I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to find my way to the starting line since I was in an unfamiliar city, but as soon as I hit the hotel lobby it was like an explosion of runners in neon colors had hit. I followed a few large groups of people to the starting line and after accidentally getting stuck in the wrong corral (I couldn’t find the exit!) I found where I was supposed to be with about 6 minutes to spare.

Music blasted over the speakers and the crowd was dancing as our corral’s turn got closer to the start. We counted down from 10 and suddenly fireworks and fire flew over the starting line as a buzzer sounded. It was awesome! I beamed as we ran through and the crowd cheered us on. (Another cool thing – they broadcast the race live on TV!)

Photo courtesy of Flying Pig Marathon Instagram.

– Photo courtesy of Flying Pig Marathon Instagram.

The course was fantastic. There were a good gathering of hills around miles 6 to 8, but nothing too crazy. One of my favorite moments was a man at the bottom of one of the hills holding a giant letter “F” who kept shouting “Get the F up this hill!!” Another favorite moment was hearing a runner next to me say to his friend “Mile 5 is the fastest mile on the course, you’ll see why in just a second…” and we suddenly turned a corner and entered a one mile straight away lined with hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people cheering on the runners. (I ran an 8:30 that mile.)

Another favorite moment was early on in the race, crossing the bridge over into Kentucky and looking out across the Ohio River and seeing the sunrise. You could see a hot air balloon shadow in the distance too. It was so beautiful and I heard another runner say “Take a mental picture in your head.” And I sure did.

Photo courtesy of Flying Pig Marathon Instagram.

– Photo courtesy of Flying Pig Marathon Instagram.

I was laughing out loud when I saw the finish line with a giant sign reading “The Finish Swine” across the top. The pig related signs and costumes were hilarious to see out on the course and I really enjoyed the theme, oppose to just another “So-and-So City Marathon.”

The finisher’s party was fantastic too with tons of good (free) food for the runners and lots of tents and booths with local groups and restaurants. It was also great to be able to walk back to the hotel afterwards and see the hordes of other runners all around the city enjoying the day and the beautiful weather.

finisherThe only complaint I have about the event is that there was no post-race free beer ticket! (I’ve never ran a race of this size before without a free drink at the end! It’s still not enough to spoil it for me though.) Also a bag at the finish line would have been nice instead of juggling all the free food items you got. (Hey they were free though so I’m not complaining that much!)

After the race we went over to Newport Kentucky and had drinks and lunch out on the deck overlooking the Ohio River. We were feeling so crazy we each got out own pitcher of margaritas in honor of Cinco De Mayo. It was so wonderful to relax with my family in the sunshine after a wonderful race. I saw other runners out walking around too with their families, the Flying Pig metal hanging proudly around their neck.

margsOverall I would give this race 9 out of 10. The marathon is also named a top 10 “Most Fun Runs” and ”best named” Marathon by Runner’s World Magazine and it sure lives up to both!

Here are a few more pictures from this weekend. (Also – the race already has race pictures up! Another reason the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon rocks!)

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Stay Warm CLE

Miscellaneous

I’m getting cabin fever. Or maybe I actually have it already. Either way, I might lose it if I have to stand in the cold and shovel snow off my car (yes shovel is the correct term) one more time.

AND it’s only the last week of February so chances are good that I will continue shoveling snow off my car for at least another month or so. At least daylight savings is coming up. Hopefully it will all be downhill with this Cleveland winter stuff after that.

Image from Second Sole Rocky River Instagram*

Image from Second Sole Rocky River Instagram*

Last weekend I did 10 miles on the treadmill in a little less than two hours. It was awful, but it was also freezing and blizzarding out. I actually would have taken the treadmill over running in that crap any day. I hate running in the cold – and the rain for that matter, but what is the saying? “If you wait for perfect conditions you’ll never get anything done.” Woof.

Image from Second Sole Rocky River Instagram*

Image from Second Sole Rocky River Instagram*

This weekend I have a 12 miler scheduled. I really don’t want to run on the treadmill again, but I also don’t want to run outside either. It’s supposed to be 37 and snowy on Sunday and that’ll actually be one of the warmer days that we’ve had around here. Maybe I’ll try to brave the run that day. My other thought is to break up the run on the treadmill between two, five milers and then do two final miles. One other annoying thing about the treadmills at the gyms I go to – the longest duration you can set on the treadmill is 55 minutes. So annoying.

For a few weeks I was running 6, 7 and 8 miles on Friday mornings. It was so nice to get my weekly “long” run over with so I didn’t have to try to squeeze it in over the weekend. Now as training hits double digits it’s going to be harder to do that since I have to be at work at 9AM.

I’ve also been going to an awesome boot camp class religiously every Saturday for the past two months, but when I’m training I find it easiest to do my long runs first thing on Saturday mornings. I hate to give up the class, but not sure how I can time manage my training either.

Here’s to making it through until daylight savings – and hopefully spring and/or March!

Maybe a sign that spring is coming? Sunlight & stretching after my 5 miler yesterday morning.

Maybe a sign that spring is coming? Sunlight & stretching after my 5 miler yesterday morning.

#RunAkron – 2014 Akron Marathon Review

Miscellaneous

Despite my frustration in my time (three minutes slower than my goal – what the…), check-off 2014 as another amazing Akron Marathon experience. I honestly could not speak more highly about this event. From the race expo, to the gear, to the course, to the crowd support, to the finisher’s party – this race is awesome. If you are looking for a full marathon experience in Northern Ohio – Akron is your race.

I cannot get over how perfect the weather was for race day. Of course the morning was a little chilly at 4AM, but we bought $2 sweatshirts at Goodwill to toss once we warmed up, which ended up being mile 1. By 10AM it was a beautiful 65 degrees and the sun was out. Some runners complained about the heat, but running in warm (even hot) weather is what I live for.

The first half of the race was a piece of cake. One of my best friends, Nicole, ran until mile 9 with me. We chatted and laughed and I didn’t even notice what mile we were at until I saw the mile 7 flag. She has had a series of running and crossfit injuries, so we decided she’d run the first two legs of the relay with me and then meet me at the final and fifth relay to run me into the finish line.

Mile 5 was one of my favorite marathon “moments” both last year and this year.  As we turned down a road that faced east, you suddenly found yourself on a wide road with a beautiful view of the sun rising.  It was gorgeous and there was an orange glow on everything.  I wanted to take out my phone and snap a picture, but I didn’t want to fumble with my arm band. I reminded myself to soak in the moment of the race. Seeing the shadows of runners all around me, the sun shining brightly, hearing shoes hit the pavement, feeling the excitement of the race. A few days after the race I was excited to find a picture on Instagram of the exact same spot that another runner took during the race. The image below is by hdonze and sums up this part of the race.

mile-5-image

Nicole jumped off at the relay at mile 9 and I had to have a mental pep talk with myself. This is what all those training runs were for. This moment right here was what I truly enjoyed. What I thought about all year. What inspired me…

We ran through the cheering students at the University of Akron and I picked up with a pace group running 10:07. This middle part of the race is usually where you start looking around and realizing you’re running with the same group of people, but no one is really together. In my head I refer to these people as “race characters”. (Am I the only runner who names the other runners around them? I think half the fun of long distance races is meeting and seeing other runners out there.)

There was:

• “Tough Mudder” a guy wearing a tough mudder shirt
• “Two camel back sisters” two women both wearing camel backs and looked like they could be related
• Two guys in black shirts that kept passing one another, but I think were running together (or at least trying to)
• A “rehab runner” which from conversations I heard, was an ex-drug addict who now runs instead of getting high – props to you girlfriend
• “Tattoo” which was a guy covered in military (maybe Marines) tattoos
• A girl running in a dress
• A mom who had really cute shoes on

I was doing great until we hit the tow path.  I mentally tried preparing myself for this section of the race, considering it’s only like three miles, but it still felt like FOREVER. I tried slowing down to really enjoy the run and focus, but every time I tried to remember last year and thought “Yes this must be the end” it wasn’t the end. It just kept going. By the time I was officially about to go crazy (and get super claustrophobic), the path opened back up to the road and I saw the crowd. Thank God! By this time I had to pee pretty bad and I knew we still had a small climb to get to the relay 4 zone. Just as I turned my music on, I heard my mom and fiancé suddenly screaming at me. I looked over to see them and my heart leaped. Just what I needed! I waved like an idiot.

“How are you feeling?!” Screamed my mom.
“I have to pee so bad!” I screamed back and waved and smiled some more.

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The exchange in relay 4 is exciting, but as soon as it’s over, it’s over. The park is then quiet and long. The road is big so you can spread out, but it almost seems to make it go more slowly. I remember fighting this same battle last year. Just keep moving. You’re fine. I knew there was a hill coming up called “Rally from the Valley” and I knew that once we hit 18.5 the course was going to turn fun again.

As I saw the giant hill approaching I also saw an open porta potty. I jumped at the opportunity and was in and out in less than 20 seconds. Just that brief break gave me the boost I needed and unlike in 2013, I ran the entire way up the hill without stopping! A nice man stood at the top screaming “Pump those arms! Let them pull you all the way up to the top! You got this!” which was just the encouragement I needed to keep moving. At the top of the hill was a marching band and twirlers and I grinned as I passed them. I saw mile 19 and knew I only had about 1.5 miles to go before Nicole joined me again. This part of the run is through a beautiful neighborhood and the street is lined with people and snacks and loud music. This is also one of the best places for signs. Once again I told myself to take in the moment of the race – the runners around me that I suddenly viewed as fellow comrades and not competition, the cheering families on the side of the road, the little kids holding out high-fives to runners, the roar of music, the signs for free beer and the aching I started to feel in my quads. I loved every minute of it. I felt alive.

At mile 20 I felt my eyes grow moist and I teared up for a brief moment when I saw the flag. My quads were sore. Very sore. I was also bored.  I  needed something to think about, so I looked for Nicole on the side of the road. Finally I saw her standing with my mom and fiancé. I once again waved like a crazy idiot. She fell into step with me and we continued running. Around mile 22 I asked Nicole to tell me a story. I asked her to talk to me about anything to keep my mind off my aching quads and also to keep my mind from screaming “STOP. I’m bored and your legs are tired!!” So we started talking about our weddings. Soon we were at mile 23. I took in another power gel and knew that we would soon be making a left turn and heading back towards the city, which is also one of my favorite parts of the race. I mentally tried to picture it, knowing that my mind needed to get in the right place if I was going to finish this thing. Before I knew it we turned and saw the street lined with people cheering. You could see tall buildings in the distance. I teared up again watching the mile 24 flag blowing in the wind. I was so emotional and tired. This part of the race was fun though. Nicole and I talked openly to other runners around us and to the amazing cheering supporters on the sidewalks.

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“TWO MILES BAY-BAY!!”
Shouted a tall black girl, holding up two fingers on each hand, “JUST TWO MILES GIRLS!!”

Nicole and I laughed. It was the boost I needed and I screamed “Wooo” at her in appreciation. I couldn’t believe the  support  from total strangers, a concept I completely love about marathons.

Nicole told me to pick it up a little as there was a slow incline and somehow I managed to pick up the pace. I was surprised at my body, but I have been doing HIIT two times a week for the last several months and I silently thanked myself for that. At mile 25 I felt the wheels  starting to come off, but somehow managed to keep a decent pace. I was feeling 300% better at mile 25 this year compared to last year.  We were so close to the finish line that I could hear “The Wobble” playing in the stadium speakers and I deliriously said “I want this song to play every hour on the hour at my wedding”. And Nicole just agreed “We can arrange that.”

The street was lined with people and the energy was intense. I knew that the best and most emotional part of the race was just head.

“Where’s 26!?” I screamed to Nicole.
“Four more stop lights girls!! Keep going!” shouted a guy on the sidewalk to us.

Nicole counted the stop lights one at a time (and they seemed to fly by). “I see it!!” I screamed as I saw a tucked away mile 26 flag. I was sprinting and fighting the urge to throw up. We went down a tiny hill and turned into the stadium. The light filled the finish line straight away and I sprinted into the stadium – dying, screaming and probably making the ugliest face ever.

I crossed the finish line and I stopped running for the first time in over 4 hours. We stood there catching our breath and smiling at the crowd.

I did it again! My second marathon. Twenty six point freaking two miles.

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We began our zombie walk limp over to get our medals and the post-race food. I looked around and took in the sights and excitement of the stadium. Other runners flipping out over their accomplishment, the music booming over the speakers, people celebrating and high-fiving, the medals clanking on our necks.

Running a marathon is emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting, but it’s a feeling that is so unique, painful and wonderful that it somehow leaves you wanting more.  Even as I stood at the finish line, my quads shaking, my muscles aching, and my body ready to throw itself on the floor, I still heard a voice in my head that said “I want to do that again.”

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A New Year — Race 1 of 12.

Miscellaneous

Happy New Year! I am super excited for 2014. I’ve got big plans for racing, running and beginning to plan a wedding. I also plan on rocking my career even more and continuing to be an awesome auntie to my four little ones – actually soon to be five come June!

2013 was an amazing year for me. I’m almost even tempted to call it “adult” like, which is funny because I am the farthest thing from being an adult. I mean I still laugh at poop jokes and I’m 24 years old. Anyways, in 2013: I got a new car, landed my first big kid job, ran my first marathon and got engaged. 2014 has BIG shoes to fill, but the possibilities are there and I’m excited for it all.

It’s one of my resolutions to run a race every month of the year in 2014. I’m glad January’s race is already said and done, because I am not a fan of cold weather running. I’m already dreading the February and March races, plus sometimes April is cold around here too. I’m also dreading the race fees, so hopefully that doesn’t stop me either.

So to start off the New Year and to cross 1 of 12 races off my list, I set off to run a 5K on New Years Day. I ran the race with Nicole (one of my best friends, future bridesmaids and marathon running partner). It was the Cleveland Commitment 5K on New Year’s Day in Beachwood. It’s a free race dedicated to starting a national conversation about living a healthy way of life. This race was one of 35 that took place all over the U.S. on January 1st and of course I loved that it was free entry.

Snowy 5K route

Snowy 5K route

Despite having a good amount of champagne the night before and staying up pretty late with friends, Nicole and I braved the cold 17 degree weather to run a quick 3.1 miles on New Years Day. The course was a little boring as we ran through a neighborhood and down snowy sidewalks. I was pretty much miserable the entire run and joked that the 5K was the worse thing to ever happen to me. I was tired, freezing and a tiny bit hung over, PLUS I’ll be honest – I’m a little out of shape considering I haven’t ran in about 3 weeks. I’m too embarrassed to even post my time, but let’s just say I ran a full 10 minutes faster in the 5K I ran in June when I was training. I wasn’t happy with my time nor running the actual race itself, but let me tell you  how happy I am that my January race is over.

I look happy, but I'm not. [Nicole and I post-race]

I look happy, but I’m not. [Nicole and I post-race]

Here’s my list of other 2014 race possibilities:
JanuaryCheck!
FebruaryDirty Run 10K in Willoughby Hills, $30 OR Chili Bowl Classic 5K in Cleveland, $20, plus the fiance would love to be able to taste all the different chili offered post race with the fee.
MarchLifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon in Beachwood, $35. (It would be my DREAM to be able to do this.) OR Strides of March 5K in Kirtland, $18. (It’ll also be important to run lower cost races now since we have a wedding to start planning for!)
April – Chardon hosts a Maple Sap 5K every year in April for an annual festival. It’s two streets over from my house and probably no more than $20, so this will probably be my April run. No information is currently posted about it.
May – My wonderful fiance registered me for the 2014 Cleveland Half Marathon for this month. He’ll run it with me too. (Guys – take note of this gift idea if your woman is a runner. I was seriously SO excited when I opened the envelope!)
JuneMentor Flag Day 5K, $20.  I ran it last year and placed in my age group. Plus there was an awesome post-race picnic after.
July – Painesville Johnny Cake Jog Five Miler, $20/$25. I loved this race when I ran it last year. It’s a fast, flat course and just an all around good event with great food and activities post-race.
August – I’d love to be able to do the Bellefaire JCB Biathlon again. It’s a 5K race followed by a 13.1 bike ride. It was an awesome event and I placed in my age group.
September – Hands down I’m running the 2014 Akron Marathon again.
October – Not sure about this month’s race yet. Not many races for this late in 2014 are posted yet. I know there’s a half and full marathon somewhere up by the lake (maybe in Fairport). I’m also not sure if the Rock and Roll Half Marathon will be back either, but I don’t particularly want to run that again. I’m not even sure if I’d want to run another full or half marathon if I’m running Akron the month before though. Stay tuned.
November – This past Thanksgiving the fiance and I were traveling the day of, so we didn’t put much of an effort in to find a Turkey Trot to run even though we both said we wanted to. 2014 will have to be different or else I’ll need to find another November race.
December – More than likely I’ll run the Legacy Village Jingle Bell 5K again. I’ve run this race the past two years and have enjoyed it. I love the holiday themed races since they are always so fun and festive.

Here are a few pictures from our New Year’s Eve festivities. Since I worked basically the entire holiday and the fiance (still weird to say since our engagement is so new) has been off work for the past two weeks, he did the NYE planning coordination. He arranged dinner with 20 friends and family at a local winery a few streets over from the house. The place is called Your Vine or Mine in Painesville and it was fantastic. I’d recommend it to anyone local and looking to support a family owned business. We had awesome wine and a light dinner, then everyone came back to the house to drink, be merry and watch the ball drop. The fiance’s sister did an awesome job with decorations and food. We all had a great time and still avoided the overly-crowded-too-loud-no seats-available-can’t-get-a-drink bar scene. I was a happy girl.

Our large group of 20

Our large group of 20

The fiance and I being overly festive and cute for NYE.

The fiance and I being overly festive and cute for NYE

New Year’s Day we followed our normal tradition of getting sushi and then seeing a movie. We saw American Hustle, which kept my attention, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it “good” by any means.

Delicious way to start the new year

A delicious way to start the new year

What are you looking forward to in 2014? I’m excited for the possibilities of the New Year ahead and I hope you all are too.

I’m ready to work hard, run hard and play even harder.

Happy New Year!  

Eight Days, Two Races – 39.3 miles

Miscellaneous

There was once a time when I thought two miles was a far distance to run. There was also once a time when I thought five miles was even longer and harder to run. The past week has been insane. I can’t even wrap my head around how far I’ve come as a runner. In eight days I ran my very first full marathon and then a half marathon. In those eight days, two races have changed everything for me as an athlete. psalm26.2

I feel like the marathon was a dream. Did it actually happen? I kept telling myself to live in the moment as I ran. I couldn’t believe this dream was actually happening. I’ve wanted to run a marathon since high school, but I was never a dedicated enough runner. In December of last year, I sat staring at the computer screen of a half marathon registration. At that time the longest I had ever ran was five miles. It took everything I had to press submit on that computer screen and then to stick to a grueling 12-week training schedule. Who knew that less than a year later I would have been standing on the starting line of the 2013 Akron Marathon. I wouldn’t have believed you back in December. It’s absolutely insane how far I’ve come as an athlete and grown as a person on this incredible running journey.

I read something online the other day that said “The person who starts the marathon is not the same person who finishes.” I couldn’t agree more to this statement. Everything changes for you as a runner after a marathon.

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My alarm.

I woke up the day of the marathon at 3:35 a.m. I was scared and excited beyond belief. Would I survive? Would I cross the finish line? What was it going to be like? With my stomach doing back flips, I drove to meet the group of people I was going with. I started the beginning of the race with one of my childhood best friends, Nicole. She was running the first leg of the relay of the marathon to 3.9 miles. If you know anything about me you’ll know that I despise the first four or five miles of every long run, so it was awesome to have a friend there to get me through those terrible first miles. The beginning of the race actually flew by as Nicole and I chatted and cracked jokes. Even as she split off at her relay end I was surprised by how easy it was to continue. Somewhere in between trying to live in the moment and taking in the giant crowd around me, I forgot what mile I was on. I estimated I was probably around six. I looked up to see mile eight a few minutes later and greeted it with a giant grin. I felt great. The crowd was awesome. The signs were hilarious and inspiring. I even took a marshmallow from a local church passing out water and other treats to runners.

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Just flexing by myself around mile 11.

I continued on the route knowing two things. We were going to run four miles on wooded trails at some point and there were hills at mile 18.5 and 22. The trails started off OK, but by the end I was itching to get out because I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Nicole had called me on the trails and I heard spectators laughing as I ran by as I picked up the phone “Oh hey.” I said casually into the phone at mile 13.1. Nicole told me that was going to meet me at mile 21 and run me into the finish line. I continued on. At mile 17 I began to slow down. There was a huge lack of crowd support and I was becoming increasingly bored. I spotted an open port-a-potty at mile 18 and took advantage. The only thing that began to keep me going was the thought of gaining a companion again at mile 21. When I reached 18.5, I encountered the toughest hill I had ever witnessed as a runner. Even mentally preparing myself didn’t help. I don’t think I saw a single person running it. I got about half way up and realized I was burning a mass amount of energy and power walked (full arm swing and everything) the second half.

At mile 20 I found myself running behind one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. The image will be burned into my memory forever. A man was pushing a running stroller carrying a handicapped man. (Find the full story here.) It was incredible to see how happy the handicapped man was and how hard the man pushing the stroller was working. I followed the stroller duo into the neighborhood part of the route and the crowd’s cheers and reactions to the two men was an amazing thing to witness. People were shouting and clapping and standing up from their seats as the man and the stroller pasted by. I don’t know if it was just my emotions or my exhaustion or what, but I began to cry every time people started clapping and cheering for the stroller in front of me. It got to the point where I practically started hyperventilating because I was crying and running and couldn’t breathe. I made the decision to hurry up and pass the stroller team just so I wouldn’t pass out. As I ran passed I peaked inside the stroller and caught a glimpse of the man inside. He was grinning from ear to ear and waving to the crowd as he passed.

singmarathonAt mile 21 words cannot describe how happy I was to see Nicole standing below the mile marker waiting for me. At that point I didn’t feel good, but I still had some juice left in me. We saw my mom and the boyfriend at 21.5. Tears began to swell up in my eyes. I was just so happy to see them and I was so tired. I smiled, waved and continued running. When we reached mile marker 22, the race took a different turn for me at that point. I joke that mile 22 was when I started screaming. This is true and funny now, however at the time during the race I had hit pure exhaustion and pain. I have never had knee issues. Even after 12 years of playing sports (and being a catcher in softball) my knees never bothered me. But by mile 22 at the marathon I had full on shooting knee pains like I’ve never experienced. My back also hurt. My glutes hurt. My toes were aching and rubbing themselves raw against my shoes. Music wasn’t even helping to motivate me anymore and every few minutes I would just scream at the top of my lungs. Suddenly all around me the majority of runners were starting to limp, groan and drastically slow down. I knew that this was probably the make-you-or-break-you part of the race. I don’t even know what I told myself to keep going. I don’t even know how I continued.

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Not even sure if I had a pulse here.

We passed a sign at mile 23 that said “It’s just a 5K now.” I screamed at the sight of the sign. Suddenly I felt a runner next to me. “Keep your head up. Run smooth. Move your arms. Let your legs carry you. You got this.” said a man with gray hair as he passed Nicole and I. I nodded and began repeating out loud the exact same thing the man had just said. I don’t know how long I said it or how loud I was even talking. I was vaguely aware of Nicole saying “You got this girl” over and over next to me. Somehow I found myself at mile 25. As we ran I knew there was a crowd around us, but unlike before I didn’t even look at them. I heard people shouting encouragements, but I wasn’t aware of what they meant anymore. I saw other runners limping all around me. We twisted and turned down roads and around the buildings of downtown Akron. It felt like I was running through a dizzy maze. Every corner we turned I was praying to see mile 26. The crowd was getting louder…

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What the finish line looked like.

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Nicole encouraging me, but I probably wasn’t running very fast!

Suddenly I spotted mile marker 26 and below it was the straight away leading into the Akron Aeros Stadium where the finish line waited. Nicole kept shouting “Just sprint the .2 miles come on! Come on!” I knew I had picked it up considerably those .2 miles, but in reality it probably wasn’t very fast. We turned a corner, ran down a tiny hill and into the stadium to the sound of a giant crowd and the actual straight away to the giant finish line. The big screen showed a close-up of the runners as they entered the stadium. It was like being a rock star for 10 seconds. I was dying as I attempted to sprint. I crossed the finish line and for the first time in 4 hours and 44 minutes I came to a complete stop. I stared at the ground with my hands on my knees, suddenly becoming aware of my limbs aching in pain. I heard my mom and boyfriend yelling from near by and looked up and saw them in the stadium waving wildly and taking pictures.

I limped over to the recovery area and as I looked around, seeing thousands of runners flopping onto the ground, hugging, high-fiving, I couldn’t even believe I had done it. In fact, I still can’t believe I did it. It may have taken me 4 hours and 44 minutes, but looking back it seemed like one bright, shinning moment. It didn’t last very long, but it was simply incredible. It was amazing, yet the hardest, toughest thing I had ever done.

finish line

The finish line!

Afterwards, I could barely walk and my toes were raw. It took a couple days for me to even be able to wear shoes again. Grossly, my toe nails turned purple from bruising. (Needless to say I need to invest in a better pair of running shoes.)

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We look happy, but secretly we are in pain in this picture!

Three days after the race I was up at 6 a.m. running my normal four miles and by day 5 I felt great. On the 8th day after the marathon, I set out at 4:30 a.m. for downtown to run the Rock and Roll Cleveland Half Marathon. A few people called me crazy since I wasn’t fully healed from the marathon, but I felt good. This time I was running the race with both Nicole and the boyfriend. Nicole joked that once you run a full marathon your body is never the same. I didn’t really believe her until mile 6 of the half, when my sharp knee pains from the marathon were suddenly back. The course was incredibly hilly, so that didn’t help either. It hurt just as bad going down hill as it did going up. By the end of the race, all three of us were screaming and groaning from our injuries.

The boyfriend and I sprinted in the last .5 miles even though we were hurting pretty bad. It didn’t make much of a difference though because we finished in 2:25. Our PR from May’s half marathon was 2:20, so we weren’t particularity happy with our time, but we WERE overjoyed that it was the end of the race!

At that point my body was aching and screaming. I could barely walk. Even as I sit and write this three days later, I’m still limping from my knee. I have Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot, which causes me a lot of pain to walk and wear shoes. My toe nails are still gross with blisters and bruises. I don’t regret a thing though. I wear my injuries proudly as a matter-of-fact. I haven’t worked out one day this week. I’ve also allowed myself to not diet or worry about calories either. It’s been a nice mental break, however typical superwoman me is already itching to get back into the gym and go for a run. I’m trying to rest and recover this entire week, maybe, MAYBE I’ll go for a short run on Saturday…

rnrhandfinishline

The boyfriend and I painfully crossing the 13.1 finish line together.

Those eight days felt like a complete dream to me. A dream that was torture at times, yet so sweet and amazing that it makes you want to go back for more. It’s bittersweet really. It’s incredible and life changing, yet crushing and scary and painful. It breaks your heart, yet you’ve never felt so alive when it’s done.

I’ve already looked at other marathons and longer races, but I think it’s probably best to take it easy for a little now. This year (and especially this summer) has been such a journey for me. I’m beyond proud of myself and beyond proud of others who run these marathons. It’s truly an experience. It’s a test of character, dedication and mental willpower.

Like that saying says about not being the same person who finishes the race. You really can’t be the same person after finishing a marathon. It changes everything.

Look in the mirror — there’s your competition.

Miscellaneous

Well…it happened…

I signed up and am officially running the Akron Marathon on Saturday, September 28. marathon

It still seems unreal. I’ve dreamed about running a marathon for years — even when I thought 4 miles was soooo long during my early college years of running. Now, I finally feel ready enough to attempt it.

All summer I went back and forth with the decision to run it or not. I had planned to do it and then suddenly prices dramatically increased. Then I was out of commission for three weeks because I got my wisdom teeth out and developed a terrible infection. Then people I spoke to warned me “Oh no you don’t want to run Akron as your first marathon.” Or “It’s stupid, don’t ever run a marathon.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

I got so inside my own head that I shut out the idea for a little bit. Then suddenly something just clicked inside of me. I trained all summer (well minus three weeks) and I knew that the Akron half marathon would be too easy. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to feel proud of myself. I wanted to be the person I had watched at the Cleveland Marathon finishing strong and crossing mile 26.2.

Suddenly I felt a huge surge of inspiration and motivation. I would never be more ready then I would be right now. Of course I would (and am) continuing to train up until the race, but if I didn’t take advantage of this right now, I would spend all winter wondering what if?

Of course I’m still terribly afraid. I’m petrified I’ll get to mile 18 and just be done, but I’m also so excited that it keeps me awake at night. The past two weekends I woke up with a giant smile at 7 a.m. because it was the day for my long run.

I’m also nervous because I’ll be running it alone. Of course there will be the other 2,000 runners, but in general, none of my friends will be there running next to me. The BF just could not do it with his bad knee and of course he feels awful about it, but I’m not holding it against him. This is more of my dream now and I’m finally going to make it happen. I’m scared out of my mind, but I was even more scared to have to wait a whole year to get this opportunity again.

Stay tuned, because this race happens in three weeks!

The BF and I at this weekend's home opener.

The BF and I at this weekend’s home opener.

In other races and life news, I’m a happy gal because my Cleveland Browns are back at it! I’m sad that summer is ending (actually borderline depressed), however I love football season!

I also ran the South River Winery Vineyard Run two weekends ago and it was awesome, but undoubtedly the toughest course I’ve ever ran before. It was all grass trails in and around the grapevines of the winery. Of course it was cool and very scenic, but after almost twisting my ankle 28 times and missing my 10K PR time by two minutes, I was happy to see the finish line.

Friends, myself and the BF post race.

Friends, myself and the BF post winery race.

That’s it for now. I am so focused and excited that I’m practically giddy about it being 91 degrees today, because I plan to get in at least five miles tonight after work. I’ve got to keep this motivation and fire lite!

clearurmindpic

Biathlon Beginnings

Miscellaneous

This past weekend was my first running + biking event — the 2013 Bellefaire JCB Biathlon.

The event was a 5K run (3.1 miles) followed by a 12.9 mile bike ride through the beautiful cities of Shaker Heights, Beachwood and Mayfield. I convinced the boyfriend to compete with me. (FYI he loves when I force him to do events like this. Just kidding, he enjoys it. Most of the time at least.) biathonStart

The run was smooth and fast and we finished in about 27 minutes. Pacing ourselves at 9:23 was a good idea since we had a nice little bike ride ahead of us. The ride was challenging, but awesome. There was one gruesome hill that had bikers dropping like flys. The BF and I powered through it though, even high-fiving at every mile. (We continued this tradition from our first half marathon together back in May.)

Overall our time for the entire event was 1:27 something. The BF snuck ahead of me and technically beat me by 8 seconds. Of course me being Miss. Competitive/Must-Win-Everything didn’t like that 8 second lead. (In fact I still don’t like it.) BiathonPicnic

Post-race was a giant picnic with TONS of food. I’m pretty sure I ate back all the calories I burnt in the race on the food I ate afterwards. That’s OK though since it was my cheat meal for the week. Let me tell you how delicious it was to eat a pulled-pork sandwich on white bread. In fact, I even went a little wild and stole a bite or two of the boyfriend’s donut he was munching on.

BiathonMeWhile we were enjoying our food, an announcer came on and started the awards. I was sitting back against a table and had only just whispered “I wish I had a medal to hang up” to the BF when suddenly the announcer called my name over the speaker! Everyone I was with screamed and cheered as I ran up there. I had no idea! I went up there and to my huge surprise received a congratulatory first place medal for my age group (20-24). BiathonAJME

Winning that medal was the cherry on top of an amazing race. The boyfriend and I added it to our “We’ll be back every year for the rest of our life” event check-list. At some point I would love to do a duathlon, which is running biking and running again. I think the next event like that around here though is next August. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens! 

Next up on my “train all winter race all summer” is a 10K on Sunday at my favorite winery! (Find more information about the Vineyard Run.) The race is through the scenic grape vineyards and has mostly trails, plus you get a FREE glass of wine post-race. I mean, what’s not to love about this event?

There’s a few smaller races I’m thinking about doing in September, but the BIG race coming up on September 28th is Akron*dun dun dun*

I still have not decided if I’m doing the full or half. On a good day I can run 17 miles, but I’m near death after. The fear of having to run almost another 10 miles after that is really stopping me from signing up, but the fear of having to wait until next summer to have the chance to run a full again is scaring me too. I know that if I do the half, it’ll be easy and I’ll wish the entire time I did the full. On the other hand if I do the full I’ll A.) Be alone and B.) Want to die. I can’t decide and time is quickly running out. I don’t want the fear to stop me, but what’s the smart decision here?

Am I only half crazy? Or fully crazy? That is the real question.

Death by Lack of Motivation…and NE Ohio Winters.

Miscellaneous

Ugh. I have not been feeling running lately. Does anyone else ever get like this? I love running, usually. But these past two weeks I have been burnt out both mentally and physically when it comes to running.

I got to week 10 of 18 of my training schedule for my half marathon and suddenly hit a wall. I have not ran in TWO weeks to the day today. Eeeek. Of course I’ve continued cross training with spinning classes and elliptical sessions, even a few cross country skiing workouts, but for real…14 days since my last run?!

Cross Country Skiing Workout

Cross Country Skiing Workout

But the truth is that I just cannot get myself back out there to run. On week nine I ran 11 miles in 21 degree weather. It was awful by every definition. At one point during the 11 miles I think I started crying, but it could have been the sleeting snow whipping at my face for over two hours. The following weekend I set out to do 12 miles (it was about 40 degrees) and then my watch decided to stop working without me knowing, so I had no idea how far I actually ran. At that point I was so annoyed I kind of just threw in the towel right then and there. Then the following weekend was filled with non-stop St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the next weekend we got four inches of snow and ice in wonderful Chardon, Ohio. With my moral and spirits sinking, I didn’t even put up a fight to skipping my long weekend runs the past two weeks. Of course I felt guilty, but deep down I was kinda relieved.

Even today at 37 degrees, I wanted to get out there and go for a quick four miles, however here I am blogging and finding every other excuse on the planet not to go. Then I beat myself up over it when I don’t run and just settle for spinning instead. And at this point setting foot on a treadmill at the gym makes me want to die.

Hmm...not so much lately.

Hmm…not so much lately.

Is this battle going on with any other runners? What do you do when you’ve just lost it? I cannot even get myself to run four miles, let alone 13. I went strong for ten weeks and now I cannot find that same inspiration and motivation to save my life!

I think the snow and the cold weather have a lot to do with it. I’ve been hanging out at the gym since November and I’m starting to get cabin fever. I need fresh air, sun, pavement, shorts and any weather over 60 degrees would be fabulous.

What is everyone’s secret to keeping inspiration and motivation alive? How do you not give up on your dreams or goals even when you are burnt out and tired?

I’ll leave you with this picture. I seriously laughed out loud when I saw it on Pinterest yesterday.

Seriously LOL

Seriously LOL